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Spellcasting and Witch hunters


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Hello everybody,

The Witch Hunters are supposed to be a looming, oppressing and everpresent threat for the common citizen. As far as I understood, if you let any unapproved magic ability show (mean almost any magic ability...), you are likely to get in trouble with the Guild.

Nevertheless, in the game fluff, Ironsides seats in a bar with Oxfordian mages that really look like mages and everybody seems to do magic without hiding too much.

So I am a bit confused as to how spellcasters should be played in TTB. Always hiding magic abilities, using magic in the Slums away from guild patrols but never in Downtown or in view of the Guild patrols? Which then, knowing how Malifaux works, lead to the question of how is it that nobody denounces the spell casters for money?

How do you handle spellcasters, the use of their ability and their eligibility for a quick life changing trip to Sonnia's very private chamber?

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The term "witch" doesn't mean 'magic user'.  It basically means "unauthorized or unsanctioned magic user."  In other words, it means "Someone using magic in a way that the Guild doesn't control."  But the Guild has a lot of different ways of controlling things, and sometimes they don't have as much control as they'd like.  From the blurb for the Oxfordian mages:

The Oxford University of Metaphysical Studies occupies a strange gray area in the eyes of the Guild. While Oxford's teachings are contrary to the Guild's approved theory, known as the Thalarian Doctrine, the university is allowed to teach its students the theories of the method.

In Malifaux, however, the Oxford Method becomes a potent art. Because of this, the Guild heavily restricts the travel of graduates and students of the method through the Breach.

In other words, look at all of the stuff that Hoffman does in the background material going around enforcing the Guild law concerning constructs and augmentation.  There's going to be just as much of that sort of restriction on the practice of other types of magic.

So if a normal person is seen using magic in Guild controlled areas, they're going to be subject to the Guild enforcing Guild law.  And there's going to be the equivalent of papers and pedigree for their magic education, or else a series of "interviews" in the Guild offices to demonstrate that the Guild is in charge.  Not a trip through Creid's yellow rooms, most of the time, but enough to ensure that the Guild order isn't going to be challenged.

As far as "How is it that nobody denounces the spell casters for money?", how many false reports and the like are the various people going to have to deal with in a day?  Sure, everyone's tempted to report that loud neighbor that they don't like to the guild for being suspicious, until they have to deal with a frustrated guild lackey teaching them the consequences of wasting The Guild's Time.  So, reasonably speaking, there's a matter of sufficient evidence and there being enough reason for someone to come out and investigate.

From a practical point of view, the strictness of Guild control pretty much needs to be practical.  People are in Malifaux because the Guild wants soulstones, and that means that the Guild needs people to get things done.  People just can't get things done if they're being constantly arrested, interrogated and imprisoned.  That means that the arresting, interrogating and imprisoning is going to be reserved for the people that cause trouble, and then the Guild people just have to spend their time watching for people to step out of line.

Edit:  It might be simpler to put it this way:  Magic isn't illegal, because that's what the Guild exists to control.

What is illegal, and what the Guild will act against, is anything which challenges the Guild control of magic.  Things that the Guild outright prohibits, like necromancy, is a challenge to the Guild control of magic and gets stamped out.

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There are a few forms of magic that the Guild permits within Malifaux, within reason. For example, the Guild tends to permit people to use the Thalarian Doctrine to cast Enchantment spells, and the Oxford Method is permitted to exist as well.

Now, it's not going to matter what magical theory you use when you start throwing fireballs around or magically enhancing someone engaged in a shootout against Guild forces; the Guild's going to take you down fast. If you agree to play within the narrow boundaries set out for you by the Guild and use the Thalarian Doctrine (and check in with the Witch Hunters every so often to remind them that you're not hiding anything), then it's reasonable to assume that a character could have permission to legally use magic within Malifaux.

Now, if the character actually works with the Guild, all of that becomes progressively easier as they move up the chain of command. The Witch Hunters are often given special permission to use non-Enchantment magic, for example.

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Thx for the answers. It is clearer.

Let's say that I am a hedge magic practitionner and I use my art to divinate or shapeshift or throw lightning bolts at people (that are not Guild guards).

Do I need to take extra precautions (place and people I need to avoid when practicing magic)? Do I need to register with the Guild and be reasonably free as long as I don't go against the Guild authority? Can somebody blackmail me if they somehow get proof I know how to do all these things?

Can I practice openly and be a mercenary hired by the Guild with a modicum of respect or will I be compelled to serve whatever the payment, under the threat of ending up as a witchling stalker?

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If you're using Hedge Magic and not working directly for the Guild, it is in your best interests to keep that fact a secret from the Guild. Thalarian Doctrine and the Oxford Method are the only theories that have any sort of legitimacy in the eyes of the Guild, and they'd like to keep as many practitioners of the latter out of Malifaux as possible.

So, in theory, someone could very easily blackmail you if they suspect you know how to use magic. However, this depends someone on location - in Malifaux City, this is probably the easiest, while in the Northern Hills, people generally tend to leave magic-users alone or even protect them from the Guild, partially because of how Union-leaning the North tends to be and partially because it's always good to have someone that can toss fireballs at Gremlins when they come roaring across the Frostrun in a raiding party. In the Quarantine Zone? Blackmail is probably the least of your concerns.

Also, there's the issue of trying to blackmail someone with magical powers you don't understand. Can they take control of your mind? Kill you with a snap of their fingers? Secretly a Guild agent? Or worse, what if they're a Resurrectionist or Arcanist? That's just not a safe prospect; unless you're particularly brave (and those people do exist), you're probably better off reporting them to the Guild and hoping you can catch a reward for squealing.


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What exactly constitutes magic use?  I doubt the definition is so narrow as to only include pulling out your grimoire and casting a Magia.  But what else does it include?

For instance:

Is animating a construct magic use?  Note that this is distinct from having an animated construct, because even if animating one is forbidden, it is possible for someone to acquire one legally animated, like from some guild sanctioned source.

What about a manifested power (though I'm sure here the answer is "it depends")?  For instance, to use an example from the book, a pistol attack infused with some kind of spiritual/magical essence?


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Casting a Spell or using a Manifested Power both count as magic.


Engineers (from Into the Steam) can make Constructs function without magic, so just having one following you around doesn't necessarily mean that magic is involved, so it's not really an issue the Guild tends to push (because most Guild Guard can't really tell the difference either way).

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Doesn't it pretty much come down the Amalgamation Charter making certain categories of constructs and such authorized and legal, while making "amalgamation" and other categories of constructs forbidden? 

I mean, when you see characters in the setting with pneumatic limbs or the like, that's not them being outlaws operating outside of Guild control. There's a reason why the almanac has that line in there about Guild being happy to extend a line of credit to someone who needs a pneumatic limb due to injury.  In debt to the Guild and dependent on soulstones...  :mellow:


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